Toyota ‘Eco Charrette’ Convinces Dealership to Go Big and Green
April 23, 2012
| Posted to:
No Place Like Home -- Co-owner Greg Kaminsky stands in front of El Cajon Toyota, built on a former Home Depot retail store site.
When Greg and Gary Kaminsky decided to build an all-new Toyota of El Cajon facility on the site of a former Home Depot retail store, the co-owners of the Southern California dealership knew it was their chance to go big. It wasn’t until later that they discovered it was also an opportunity to go green.
“The structure is quite large,” says Greg Kaminsky, noting that the 131,000 square-foot footprint is about 2.5 times the average for a Toyota dealership. “But it proved to be very easy to adapt to the Image USA II standards. For example, we were able to bring the entire service drive inside, which is a great feature with the heat we get in summer and the rain in winter. And the service area flows right into the showroom, which can promote sales. Rather than a campus approach, everything is under one roof.”
The Kaminskys acquired the site in 2007 and completed construction of the new dealership—as well as a separate ground-up certified center—in 2009. In between, they not only met Toyota Motor Sales’ (TMS) new facility requirements, they also set the stage for certification at the silver level in the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program in 2010.
Signs of Certification -- Prominent signage in the showroom calls attention to Toyota of El Cajon's many environmentally minded design elements.
Kaminsky credits the second half of that equation to TMS’ Retail Market Development group that encouraged the Kaminskys to embrace an environmentally sensitive path. Toyota of El Cajon is now one of 14 Toyota dealerships that have earned LEED certification, more than all other auto dealerships combined. Garth Rosenberger, TMS dealer identification manager, says 40 more facilities currently in design, permitting or construction are also on track for certification.
“Toyota came out and did what they call an ‘eco charrette,’” says Kaminsky. “They walked us through the process and helped us understand what LEED is really all about. We learned that, because of the unique nature of the Home Depot building, there were some fairly simple things we could do to make the overall facility more sustainable. We also discovered that the return on investment would be relatively quick. In the end, it was a very easy decision for us.”
For example, Toyota of El Cajon features low-flow water fixtures. Much of the flooring is made of bamboo, a fast-growing building material. Tiles boast a high level of recycled content. Paint used throughout is free of volatile organic compounds (VOC). All of the asphalt from the existing Home Depot facility was recycled. The car wash water is reclaimed and reused. And the surrounding landscaping incorporates a bioswale that helps defer rain water runoff.
Salvaging and repurposing such a large existing site, however, might have been the most environmentally friendly choice of all.
“Many dealerships claim they have the best prices or the best selection,” says Kaminsky. “To break through that clutter, we’ve chosen to do something different. LEED certification is one part of a larger strategy to brand our business. It fits with our ‘EC’ logo, that stands for El Cajon as well as environmentally conscious.”
Toyota of El Cajon’s brand is also aligned with Toyota’s, which helps explain why it is so far ahead of the industry on the LEED certification front. Toyota dealers considering a facility upgrade can benefit from the lessons learned by the pioneers, such as Kendall Toyota in Eugene, Ore., the first Toyota dealership to achieve LEED platinum status.
“Kendall Toyota installed solar panels that now produce 42 percent of their power,” says Rosenberger. “That was a huge investment that, on its own, would have taken 20 years to recoup. We were able to provide resources that allowed them to claim government incentives that funded 80 percent of the project, cutting the ROI to just four years.”
In the end though, the decision to go green is never solely about the green.
“Other dealers might be surprised that it’s the right thing to do from a business perspective,” says Kaminsky. “But as resources become more scarce, it’s also the right thing to do for the environment. We’re certainly glad we did.”
By Dan Miller